I’ve recently struggled with how to properly support events such as Women’s History Month, Black History Month and Pride Month. We are now at a point where it is no longer a question of if we’ll support these topics, but how. When evaluating the how, the bar is also much higher — it’s no longer acceptable to be passive allies, we (both individuals and companies) must be activists working towards sustainable, long-term change.
This shift has brought a few things into question. For example, I hear people say things like, “Everyday should be Women’s History Day.” There is also the debate about whether brands doing campaigns or taking small actions (like changing your logo) are overly performative. While I understand where these comments come from, and think they are certainly valid in some ways, I also see the value in giving things a name and creating a way to honor people and topics that matter to us.
Performative allyship vs the power of symbols
Let’s begin by discussing the very valid reasons why many folks are against standalone brand initiatives for social issues. The term “rainbow-washing” was coined to categorize companies that only worked with LGBTQIA+ identifying influencers, made one-time donations to LGBTQIA+ organizations or, at the very worst, created rainbow branded products during June.
We also see these types of short-term, self-promotional initiatives happen with other social issues like Black History Month or Indigenous People’s Day. In these instances, it is abundantly clear that brands are only looking at these issues as opportunities to profit (e.g. Pride-themed products) or are carelessly virtue signalling in order to check the “inclusivity box”, and avoid backlash.
It all comes down to purpose and authenticity. Is your purpose to truly support these communities? If so, how are you living out that purpose authentically, with no hidden agendas?
For more on this topic, I highly recommend Katie Martell’s amazing piece on Femvertising, which includes a handy litmus test to assess if you are truly championing women, or exploiting.
In my opinion, dedicating one month to focus on a social issue, or changing your logo to represent allyship is not inherently bad. If these things are paired with real, long term action, it can be extremely powerful. Celebrations and symbols are innately human and can serve such important functions in our lives.
This is why I believe an act, such as changing your logo for Pride, is a worthwhile gesture. At Traackr we intend to change our logo for the month of June, but we also recognize that this symbol is only powerful if it is part of a greater plan.
Our sustainable action plan
Last year forced us all to take a hard look at the role we want to play in society. How do we want to be? How do we want to act? How can we live our values as an organization? How do we identify what needs to change and be a part of the solution? For us at Traackr, we feel a duty to not only do our best to live our values but also reflect on the larger questions facing the marketing industry.
- Brands are who we hire. How can we make sure that we are truly living diversity and inclusivity in our own company cultures?
- Brands have the power to establish, reinforce and shift societal norms. As marketers, how do we ensure that our messages and partners reflect the values we believe in and inspire the changes we want to see in the world? As storytellers, how can we ensure we use our platforms to uplift the voices of the communities we’re looking to help?
- As influencers become major players in our society, the connection between people’s values and brand values has become deeply intertwined. As marketers, how do we do our absolute best to work with diverse partners and ensure our unconscious bias doesn’t derail us?
- Brand stories are brought to life by countless independent creators, across millions of pieces of content, on multiple platforms. As marketers, how do we ensure our partners reflect our values and what do we do if we or our partners make mistakes?
There are just a few of the questions we are exploring and I imagine you are too.
So we asked ourselves what it means to change our logo and are we prepared to live up to the responsibility that comes with such a symbol. While we have done some work in the past with the LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented communities, we know we can do more. How can we more effectively and sustainably incorporate social activism into everything we do?
We started by articulating our overarching intentions, drafting a short-term plan for this year’s Pride Month and mapping out what a longer term program entails. While this is facilitated by the marketing team, it’s an open initiative to the entire company. Team members from across our organization are collaborating to turn our intentions into actions.
Here are some of the things we’re doing in the next month and how we’re thinking about longer term plans:
- Announce short and long-term plan
- Goal: embody values of diversity and inclusion with transparency and accountability
- Produce 2-3 dedicated pieces on the topic of diversity and inclusion
- Goal: increase awareness and education
- Create a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Employee Team
- Goal: ensure a diverse set of internal voices are engaged in creating change within Traackr
- Elevate LGBTQIA+ voices from the influencer community
- Goal: center LGBTQIA+ voices and give them a stage to share what is important to them
- Develop an external Diversity & Inclusion Council
- Goal: ensure that conversations and actions continue, use Traackr’s platform to elevate underrepresented voices in the long-term
- Regularly invest in organizations built to aid LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and other underrepresented groups
- Goal: provide financial support to underrepresented communities
- Commit to implementing the ideas that our DE&I team develops
We will change our logo for the month of June as a symbol of our support and solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community and every month we will live up to our belief that marketing can be a force for good in the world.
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